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Posts in 'Nutrition & Food Information'

How good is your sleep hygiene
ONE third of our lives are spent in bed. We all know a good night’s sleep is a great way to recover and rest after a full day. Getting a full night’s sleep is not a luxury, it is a health necessity and for those of us in the world or work or studying it is essential to productivity and wellbeing.  It is recommended that adults have between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and more for teenagers and children. Yet it is estimated that a staggering 40% of adults are not getting enough sleep, Public Health England state that the annual cost to the UK employers is a resounding £30 billion pounds and 200,000 working days are lost to sickness and mental health every year.

Sleep is crucial in the maintenance of our cognitive skills.  Being adequately rested enables us to communicate well, remember key information, be creative and flexible with our thoughts, and improves our decision making ability. Furthermore, sleep is essential to building a healthy immune system, making you less likely to catch a cold and thus less likely to need time off work.

In addition although this may seem obvious, sleep is free, there are no side effects of having a great sleep, unlike taking caffeine tablets or drinking caffeinated drinks to try and stay awake.  Good sleep also makes you less likely to over-eat - so it’s good for your waistline.

There are many reasons we can struggle to fall asleep, work related stress, long hours at work, illness or injury and money worries are just a few issues that keep us awake at night. This is where sleep hygiene comes in effect, (nothing to do with your bed sheets!) but all to do with how you create the ideal settings for a good night’s sleep.

Here are a few points to think about:

  • Try sticking to regular bed times, set an alarm on your phone.

  • Making an effort to relax before your bed time approaches.

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and heavy meals late at night; they’ll prevent you from falling asleep.

  • If you’re finding it hard to slow down, breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds and breathe out for four seconds. Repeat as many times as needed.

  • Also think about how your technology usage too - Checking emails late in the evening or before bed is often a cause of unhealthy anxiety and distraction.

  • Computer screens, tablets and phones all emit a blue light which keep us awake by suppressing melatonin, the hormone which sends us to sleep.

Public Health England and Business in the Community have partnered to put together a free downloadable sleep toolkit for employers.   Click here for more information:


Consider how effective your workplace well-being strategy is working.  If lack of sleep is a growing problem within your organization then it’s time to re-evaluate the strategy and its effectiveness.  You could be contributing more towards the £30 billion then you think. 


If you would like to know more about our corporate wellness strategies then please follow this link:
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Water & Wellbeing
We all know how important it is to drink water, for some of us it takes a little pushing to get the right daily intake.  Whilst we are often tempted to brush off the effects of dehydration, it can lead to significant body changes both externally and visually as well as to our internal body functions.  Some of the more latent impacts will happen over a period of time and therefore less noticeable.   However long term, dehydration is very bad for your health and could become a trigger for, depression, diabetes, skin conditions and worse still other more toxic diseases.  Whilst it may seem somewhat dramatic, dehydration is a very dangerous and life threatening condition.  In time of sickness dehydration can literally lead to death so ensuring you are also hydrated is really important.

Symptoms of dehydration

Some of the more immediate and obvious signs of dehydration can be dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, constipation, tiredness, irritation.

If your body doesn’t have the fluid to remove waste then it will begin to develop and harbour toxins, this can lead to a number of health problems such as slowing down your metabolism which will lead to gaining weight.   Most commonly dehydration is often mistaken as hunger as so we will reach for something to eat instead of something to drink, which will eventually lead to weight gain, actually more quickly than you think.

Dehydration will also have a significant impact on digestion.  If your body is not digesting the nutrients you eat through food then your immune system will be weakened over a period of time, since the nutrients are not being absorbed by the body into the blood.  Furthermore water is essential to breaking down the sugar in our food.  If you continuously remain dehydrated your blood sugar levels will become unbalanced and could lead to diabetes.  Our nutritional class is a brilliant way to learn more about the correct types of foods we should be consuming, simultaneously with appropriate water consumption.

Medium term Symptoms

Dehydration will affect your concentration levels, and as that begins to build up this will begin to impact on your mood and irritability, leading to anxiety and then poor sleep patterns as the anxiety continues in your rest time.

You may also begin to see physical changes, dark circles around the eyes and possibly sunken eyes.  Your skin will become dry and shrivelled, as it is lacking water.  Water provides elasticity to skin and so your skin will age more quickly – leading to wrinkles or psoriasis.

Lack of water in muscles and cell system will lead to muscle cramp and joint ache.

The long term effects of not drinking enough water will be much more impactful, and potentially led to brain swelling, heat related injury (the body essentially burning up), a seizure, Kidney failure, Hypovolemic Shock, and potentially leading to a coma and death.

The role of water in exercising

If you’re a gym bunny, lifting weights or doing high intensity training, then during your training sessions are making much more demands on your nervous system, blood and energy levels than you might imagine.

When you exercise if you don’t have enough water in your system then your body temperature will rise and your sweat glands will swell, in a desperate cry for water. Blood is made up of 50% water, which is why the blood that is being used to transport oxygen and the nutrients to the muscles will be diverted, in order that your muscles get what they need.  If the muscles don’t get the water through the blood it will result in a poor workout.

Furthermore, when we sweat we lose a lot of important salts and electrolytes, for example sodium, potassium and calcium ions. These minerals are essential to allow healthy cell communication and will affect how your muscles contract, so replacing the salts/electrolytes is critical.

So in order to get the best perfomance your body need to be fully hydrate during exercise and hot weather.

The role of Isotonic Drinks

Isotonic drinks such a Lucozade, Powerade, Iso plus, contain electrolytes and carbohydrates. So when you are doing a heavy work out or engaging in strenuous activity, other secondary bodily functions such as digestion often temporarily ‘close down’.

Since Isotonic drinks contain small amounts of glucose they are an alternative to eating food,  such as a banana let’s say, and so they a quick and light way to give your body a quick boost of ‘food’ it needs to keep going.  So by taking a sip, (I emphasize sip) every so often you’ll avoid the heavy energy crash during or at the end of your workout.

Electrolytes also contain essential salts as well as carbohydrates so replenishing your salt levels after a heavy workout is essential.  A quick sip or two will help to maintain the cell function and prevent dehydration. Coconut water is also a very rich source of potassium which can prevent dehydration after exercise or hot weather.  Coconut water (not to be confused with coconut milk or oil) is significantly lower in calories than isotonic drinks as it is low in Carbohydrates and sodium so won’t help to give you an energy burst you may need.

Isotonic drinks can be expensive so making your own is advisable simply by making up a rich dilute of squash drink and adding a pinch of salt to it.


#drinkingwater #nutrition #corporatenutrition #healthylifestyle #healthylife #healthyliving
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Mystic Middle Eastern Cuisine
The Mystic Middle East, home of Arabian nights and the Eastern promise, belies the true nature of the simple honest food of the region.  Far from ‘exotic’ as the Persian names suggest, this cuisine is so much more about simple and uncomplicated flavours and often overlooked.  Middle Eastern dishes principally originate from Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, and Persia.  It is also the birthplace of wheat, barley, pistachios, dates, figs and of course the jewel in the crown – pomegranates.  The practice of fermentation of dough for bread also started in this region and led to the creation of the earliest form of leavened bread.

There is a common misconception that Middle Eastern food is ‘spicy’ yet this region of cooking uses no or little chilli in food, instead relying on black pepper and garlic as the heat form.  Non heating bearing spices are an important part of Middle Eastern cooking, especially Cardamom, saffron, Cinnamon and cumin, as these are responsible for giving the food its depth of flavour.  Nuts are also used extensively, particularly almonds, pistachios and walnuts, adding texture but also providing plenty of nutrients, vitamins and good fats (perhaps not so much in the deliciously sweet treat Baklava)

Dates are widely known for aiding digestive problems.  They are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, often consumed to help relieve constipation.  Yet did you know that dates have many other health benefits?

  • Dates are full of potassium which is brilliant for our nervous system. They are cholesterol free and help to lower our cholesterol. This in turn keeps our heart healthy and reduces the risk of stroke.

  • They are a natural energy booster, as they contain natural sugars. When having an afternoon ‘slump’ snack on some dates for a low calorie snack.

  • They are loaded with vitamins such as vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5 along with vitamin A1 and C. This means you get receive your daily dose of a number of vitamins just from eating a few dates.

  • Dates contain iron, so brilliant to treat and prevent anemia.

When added to a chicken tagine, cooked on a slow heat, they provide a delicious subtle sweet flavour into the dish, giving you that melt in the mouth texture and gentle aromatic finish.

Our Middle Eastern cookery class is a brilliant way to learn how to blend an array of aromatic spices to create authentic dishes such as Moroccan Couscous with Apricots, Lebanese Kibbeh, and Chicken Tagine with Dates and Almonds.  The class will teach you the perfect menu to create a feast for friends, a dinner party, or even simple mid-week suppers, creating a wonderful sense of occasion.  Middle Eastern cuisine is amongst my favourite food, the use of such simple spices, yet produces an array of enchanting flavours unlike any other that are incredibly tasty and flavoursome.  Come and join us on our next class and be prepared to celebrate such beautiful flavours from so many cultures in one simple menu.
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How Do You Like Your Eggs In The Morning?
How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Personally, I prefer mine in the afternoon, hard boiled and served with a fresh green garden salad and juicy tomatoes. However you like your eggs, there’s one thing you’ll be pleased to know you, eggs are highly nutritious, packed full of nutrients and vitamins to keep our bodies healthy no matter when or how you eat them (possibly not so much when served in a cake!)

Both the white and yolk of the egg are equally as important as one another. While the egg white contains the majority of the protein and virtually fat-free, the yolk contains many of the essential nutrients and fatty acids our body needs. Most people tried to avoid the yolk when dieting, yet you really should be consuming the entire egg to maximise the nutrition.

There has been much speculation on the yolk raising our cholesterol levels; however the effect is minimal when compared to the effect of saturated fats.  Therefore, a fried egg would be bad for our cholesterol levels, but this is purely due to the oil used to fry it, whereas a boiled egg or poached would be very good.

The Nutrition from Eggs

  • We all know that eggs are a good source of calcium, yet did you know this comes primarily from the yolk? One egg yolk contains 21.9mg of calcium, whereas the white only contains 2.3mg. Therefore we need to cook with the yolk to keep our bones strong and healthy.

  • The whites are good sources of magnesium, which our bodies need to regulate muscle and nerve function. It’s also important in keeping bones healthy and helps with the production of protein and DNA. One egg white contains 3.6mg of magnesium.

  • Both the egg whites and yolks are high in selenium. One egg contains around 15mg which is 21% of our daily recommended value (6mg from the whites and 9mg from the yolk). Selenium is important to keep the immune system healthy and fertility in both men and women.

  • One is egg is full of vitamins! It has 15% of our recommended daily value of Vitamin B2, 9% of vitamin B12, and 6% of Vitamin A.

With so many different ways to cook eggs, you can be sure to never get bored with the flavour. Rather boiled and soldiers or fried on toast, why not try something a little different with your eggs?

For a main meal why not create a sweet potato and red pepper Spanish omelette? Or add some smoked salmon, spinach, or onion to liven up your scrambled eggs?  Our nutritional cookery class guides you through a delicious poached egg on a fondue of tomato, a perfect way to start the day or for a brunch idea!


#healthyeating #healthylifestyle #healthyfood #eggs #protein #nutritional #nutrition #nutritionaleating #corporatenutrition #nutritionintheworkplace
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'Berry Mad' - Rhubarb and Strawberry Pudding
We’re berry mad here at The Cooking Academy as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries are now in season!

Berries are a food we should all be consuming now more than ever, as not only are they deliciously tasty, they are also high in fibre, low in fat and one of the best sources of antioxidants and vitamin C to boost our immune systems.  Berries are also good for the heart and keep you looking younger, so what’s not to like.

So how can you tell if your berry is ready to be eaten?

Firstly ensure that the whole berry is rich and vivid in colour.  For example, a strawberry should be a deep red throughout, if it is still white on the inside or around the leaf area, this is a sign that it’s still under-ripe.  If possible, give them a slight squeeze!  Ripe berries should be soft yet still firm and plump.  If they are easily squashed between your fingers or mushy this means the fruit has now passed its best.  When harvesting, the berry should fall off the plant. If you need to give them a slight tug, it means they are not ready to be picked or eaten.

Incidentally, blueberries aren't actually blue, but deep purple, which is the colour of anthocyanin, a pigment that is especially rich in blueberries.  The anthocyanin is an anti-inflammatory agent.  Generally the darker the berry the more anthocyanins are present.  Essentially, the darker the colour of a food, the higher the contents of antioxidants and nutrients will be, and the healthier the food.  In fact, one health and nutrition study found that those who ate purple fruit and vegetables regularly had a reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

We took our own advice and went strawberry picking to ensure we had the juiciest, plumpest strawberries to cook with and promptly rewarded ourselves with a well-deserved treat of tea and our rather scrumptious rhubarb and strawberry pudding!  A beautifully moist sponge, topped with sweet and tangy rhubarb and strawberry compote is perfect for summer garden parties with friends, or just to enjoy with afternoon tea, not that we need an excuse to eat a pudding.

The recipe was inspired by our dear colleague over in California, Shanna, who regularly contributes to our blogs and you can follow her delicious recipes on Instagram @shannawashungry

Our nutritional cookery class also provides information relating to nutritionally dense ingredients such as the use of nuts, seeds and berries in cooking.


Rhubarb And Strawberry Pudding 



3 stalks of rhubarb

7-8 strawberries

40g brown sugar

4 tsp corn flour


4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp brown sugar

FOR THE sponge 

190g plain flour

100g sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp honey or maple syrup

125 ml rapeseed oil

180 ml buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, use regular milk and omit the water)

40 ml water


Preparation instructions:

  1. Firstly, grease a bundt tin or a cake tin without a loose bottom and preheat the oven to 180º C or gas mark 4

  2. Prepare all the fruit and place into a bowl.  Add the sugar and corn flour and stir together.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar and let it all melt together for 2 mins.  Add this mixture to the bottom of the sponge tin.

  4. Now add the fruit mixture on top of this and set aside.

  5. To make the sponge, add all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix.

  6. Next add the liquid ingredients to the bowl and mix together. Pour the sponge mixture on top of the fruit in the tin.

  7. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes. When you press the top, the cake should bounce back. Or if you insert a skewer, it should come out clean.

  8. Let it cool slightly and serve.

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